This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
Yet again this week my strategy is primarily going to center around the expensive running backs David Johnson and LeVeon Bell. They continue to be too good of prices for how much their offense is leaning on them. Stacking both of them essentially guaranteed you a win last week in cash games and I have no problem taking a shot at that again. At quarterback there are some good options at both ends of the spectrum. I will likely have two lineups from the lower end of the spectrum and 1 more expensive option. This will allow me the opportunity to mix up my wide receivers and tight ends so that I can have exposure to my favorite plays at both ends of the price range. A big key for the week will be the pass ratio for the Broncos. If they rely as heavily on the pass as I expect, especially if they fall behind, they will be great value. Their passing game is underpriced due to positive game scripts all year long and their running game is quickly fading.
One of my least favorite fantasy quarterbacks is Alex Smith ($6,800). But in DFS you can’t play favorites and this week Smith makes for a great option because he allows you a chance to play both Johnson and Bell who are pretty safe options for a cash lineup. Additionally, Smith gets a great matchup against the Titans who have been pretty terrible in pass defense this year. If we look at Austin Lee’s normalized strength of schedule the Titans are allowing 293 passing yards per game over the season which is 9 more than the next closest team. Over the last 4 games they have been even worse allowing 306 yards per game. Only the Cowboys are worse. Since the Chiefs passing offense is accumulating slightly more yards than the league average it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Smith accumulate 300 passing yards given these metrics even though he hasn’t done it since week 1 of the season.
A similar option is Trevor Siemian ($6,600) who is priced about the same as Smith and again allows you to easily fit in those stud running backs. Siemian’s matchup isn’t nearly as favorable as Smith’s but he still gets a plus matchup against the Patriots. Again according to Austin’s normalized strength of schedule the Patriots pass defense is allowing 284 passing yards per game over the last 4 games and 283 over the season. Both are in the top 5-7 best defenses to target. The Broncos running game is reeling right now as Devontae Booker has proven that he is incapable of carrying the load with a 3.4 yards per attempt efficiency which means they will likely be relying very heavily on recently signed Justin Forsett. In turn I suspect this means they will be passing quite a bit. Because Smith and Siemian aren’t your most consistent options I am less inclined to go all in on either of them but don’t hate having them as a part of my cash game strategy for the week.
If enough value emerges at other positions I like finding a way to get Andrew Luck ($8,100), Drew Brees ($8,200), or Matt Ryan ($8,500) into your lineups. Luck hasn’t had quite the upside that we would like to see from him this offseason and he doesn’t have the most ideal matchup against the Vikings but Luck has a consistent floor and should reach at least 16 points as he has done in all but 1 game since week 3. Brees is coming at a huge discount after bombing the last two weeks which has caused his price to plummet by $1,100. I expect Brees to bounce back at less of an ownership than the last few weeks. Finally, Ryan gets a great matchup against the 49ers and should have no problem reaching value. But his upside may be limited if the Falcons crush the 49ers.
Running back is pretty simple again this week. In reality everything I said last week applies again this week. Here is what I wrote last week.
Running back is the easiest position to fill again this week. David Johnson ($9,200) and LeVeon Bell ($9,300) are just too cheap for the workloads that they are getting. Both should continue to get heavy workloads in both the running and passing games. Both running backs should see over 80% of their team’s rushing attempts and 20% of their team’s receptions as well as goa line carries. Both of them are pretty much game script proof as well. If their team’s fall behind they will be heavily involved in the passing game. If they are in the lead they will be icing it away on the ground. Matchups don’t really matter for both of these options but David Johnson gets yet another great matchup against the Dolphins who are allowing 4.7 yards per attempt, third worse in the league while Bell get a league average matchup against the Bills.
So what do we know since then? Johnson had a less than stellar game against the Dolphins accumulating “only” 121 total yards but not finding the end zone. His 14.6 points were one of his worst of the season. On the other hand Bell accumulated 298 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns. His 49.8 points were his most points on the season. By getting both of these running backs on your team you accumulated 64.4 points on 18.5K of salary for 3.5X of value by utilizing the safest plays on the slate. One running back hit approximately his floor and the other hit his ceiling. By wisely spending my money on heavy running back workload all of my cash game lineups won easily by stacking these two running backs. I will be taking the same approach this week.
Michael Crabtree’s price has plummeted to one of its lowest points of the season all the way down to $6,200 coming off a weak 4-21-0 performance last week against the Chiefs where the Raiders lost 21-13. However, the Raiders passing game has been solid this year ranking fifth in total passing yards and for a rare occasion has something to play for this late in the season. As such I suspect that Crabtree and the Raiders passing game will bounce back with a vengeance and the Vegas implied team total agrees as the Raiders are the third highest on the slate. Amari Cooper will primarily be covered by Casey Hayward which leaves Crabtree an easy outlet. High total, depressed price, and a likely increase in targets sounds like a good reason to count on Crabtree this week.
Dontrelle Inman ($5,500) is lined up on the other side of the field going against Crabtree and the Raiders. I am expecting this game to be one of the higher scoring games of the week. Over the last two weeks Inman has led the Chargers wide receivers in targets with 12 and has averaged 7 per week since week 6. At such a low price Inman helps you get a more expensive quarterback and the stud running backs.
As mentioned above I like going with Siemian at quarterback and don’t mind stacking them with Emmanuel Sanders ($6,600) or Demaryius Thomas ($6,700) both of whom are priced extremely low. With the Broncos running game in disarray I expect the Broncos to rely heavily on both Sanders and Thomas similar to how they did last week where they received 14 and 16 targets respectively and their pass to run ratio was 52-9. If the game script plays out anywhere close to that it will be tough to see Sanders and Thomas failing to hit value.
The Titans have been vulnerable to the pass as mentioned above which puts Travis Kelce ($6,900) in a great spot. The problem is that the Titans have been very successful in shutting down tight ends by ranking in the top ten. The Chiefs rely so heavily on Kelce that something is going to have to give and I think that Kelce breaks down the defense as he is simply one of the best tight ends in the league right now and the Chiefs are relying on him at wide receiver levels. The Titans defense is a threat and one that you should be concerned about which should make you limit Kelce to one lineup but he has enough upside in this matchup that he should be considered in a stack with Smith.
For the number of targets he gets, Kyle Rudolph ($5,800) has had a disappointing year averaging only 9.4 Fanduel points per game. But when you get 7.5 targets per game and are getting a chance to play the Colts at $5,800 you are automatically on my radar even if Sam Bradford is your quarterback. The odds of Rudolph finding the end zone this week is over 33% and if he finds the end zone will be one of the better values on the slate given the number of receptions and yards he will accumulate along the way. As such he should make it into at least a third of your lineups.
If you want to completely punt the tight end position you could do worse than plugging in Jermaine Gresham ($4,500). I don’t expect Gresham to blow up but he has a solid floor and he allows you to nicely fit in some of the more expensive safe options on the slate. Gresham has seen 6+ targets in every game but one since the Cardinals week 9 bye and this week they will be without Michael Floyd whom they released earlier this week.
Kickers and Defense
Matt Bryant ($5,100) and Kai Forbath ($4,500) should lead your kicker selections this week and offer a big enough price difference to be selected based on how the rest of your lineup construction is going. Bryant gets a juicy matchup against the 49ers where the Falcons are projected to score the most points on the slate. Additionally with the game likely going strongly in favor of the Falcons down the stretch they will likely be more inclined to settle for field goals to ice the game away. On the other hand Forbath is priced cheap to help you afford our key running backs and quarterbacks and gets to play the Colts. Sign me up.
On the defensive side of the ball someone forgot that the Packers were playing the Bears who are being led by Matt Barkley this week as they are priced at only $4,500 which makes them the clear best play on the slate. I expect the Bears to fall behind and allow the Packers to capitalize on Barkley’s mistakes. If you want to mix it up on a lineup or two and have the money left over going with the Bills ($5,100) against the Browns is a nice consolation.